Alicia Chatten is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Linguistics at New York University. She received her BA in linguistics, Spanish, and music from Washington University in St. Louis in 2017.  Her research investigates phonological systems from a variety of angles, including interfaces with phonetics and computational modeling. In particular, she is interested in typologies of metrical stress and phenomena relevant to these typologies, including the acoustic manifestation of stress and other types of prominence. At NYU, she is an active member of the Phonetics and Experimental Phonology lab. She is also the chair of the LSA's Committee on Student Issues and Concerns (COSIAC), and a member of the Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL).

The LSA Member Spotlight highlights the interests and accomplishments of a different LSA member each month. Click here to see previous Member Spotlights.

When did you first join the LSA? 

I became an LSA member in 2015, as a sophomore in college, because I wanted to attend the institute in Chicago that summer.

How have you been involved with the LSA since you joined?

I have been lucky enough to attend two institutes: the 2015 Institute at the University of Chicago, and the 2017 Institute at the University of Kentucky. Through these institutes and a number of Annual Meetings, I became involved in the work of some of the smaller groups within the LSA. I'm a member of the Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL), and am currently serving as the chair of the Committee on Student Issues and Concerns (COSIAC).

What are you currently researching/working on?

I'm interested in the asymmetries that emerge from our typologies of stress patterns, and I try to ask questions from a number of perspectives. The combination of typological survey work, computational modeling, acoustic phonetic analysis, and neurolinguistic study is a great place for me to explore big-picture theoretical ideas about how languages organize sound alongside empirical details about the manifestation of certain types of sound, especially prominence (stress, rhythm, tone, pitch accent, or otherwise). Right now, I'm looking the acoustic realization of prominence in languages that allow for stress clash, since it's not common in systems of quantity-insensitive stress. 

What is your personal favorite linguistic article or study?

That would have to be Matthew Gordon's 2002 paper "A factorial typology of quantity-insensitive stress". I revisit this paper every so often and I find that I have new questions every time. It has sparked a number of fascinating conversations with my colleagues about what it means for a particular pattern to be typologically unexpected or rare, how our assumptions about phonological structure are baked into these types of investigations, and what various other types of linguistic information might be interacting with stress systems for the typology to look the way it does. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the field of linguistics today? 

Accessibility continues to be a challenge for the field, both in access to the field for people who are interested, and in access to materials for people who can benefit from them. The work we do can be useful for language revitalization efforts, communities undergoing language shift, forensic linguists and others providing testimony as expert witnesses, and any number of other communities. Bridging the gaps between the purely academic settings many of us are in and the various other contexts in which our work can be useful is a huge challenge, as we're trained to be in conversation mostly with other academics, but looking outward to the rest of the world and learning how best to communicate in ways that are useful to others is worth constant effort in our work.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students interested in pursuing an advanced degree in linguistics? 

The most important thing to do is to jump at opportunities that interest you, especially where they can get you involved in research. You'll have to decide for yourself what kind of advanced degree, if any, is necessary for what you want to do with linguistics. If you decide an advanced degree the right thing to do for your career, make sure it's the right thing for you personally as well. In many ways, graduate school in linguistics is a research training program, so it's good to know early on if you enjoy doing your own research, and what you like about it. Jumping into challenges is often the best way to grow, especially in a field that is inherently as interdisciplinary as linguistics is. Knowing what I enjoyed about my work not only helped me decide if I wanted to pursue an advanced degree, but also gave me the tools to tell other people why I wanted to, which made the application process less intimidating.

What, in your opinion, is the most important service the LSA provides to its members? To the field?

Linguistics is a small field, but it is also inherently multidisciplinary, giving it the potential to touch many different communities, research or otherwise. The LSA provides a place for everyone to come together and discuss any topic in the wide scope of the field, providing a valuable network for discourse on language.